Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Incorporating Tracking Dogs with Horseback Search and Rescue

I received an e-mail from Shirley who asked about the viability of, and considerations for using tracking dogs with horseback search and rescue (SAR) teams.

I do not have any experience using dogs for search and rescue.  I did all my search and rescue operations on foot, on horseback or in a helicopter.  But on the surface it would seem like a no brainer to incorporate trained search dogs with horseback SAR teams. And while at least one Federal agency, the U.S. Border Patrol, is doing so since around 2006 with good success, these are full time teams usually with young, fit handlers and younger dogs as well.  A canine-equine-human team is not something that can just be thrown together and expected to work well.

Granted dogs have a very keen sense of smell allowing their use to detect explosives, narcotics, other illegal contraband, and human remains, as well as track a human's scent on the ground and in the air over terrain, and likely have a role in complimenting horseback search and rescue, however most dogs will have a limitation in it's endurance.  One of the most experienced search dog handlers I know assured me that most dogs can be conditioned for endurance required for an all day search covering a good amount of ground, but many handlers and dog are not prepared for longer distance search in high ambient temperatures.      

Most dog handlers doing rural or remote based search and rescue normally carry water for their canines. The canines can also be outfitted with footgear, much like hoof boots for horses, to minimize the damages from hot sand, sharp rocks and cactus and mesquite thorns. But I would think that most part time search dogs just wouldn't have the endurance that horses do, so a joint role with horses and dogs would have to be managed mainly for the dogs' safety of over heating.

I have known two Cowboys whose dog's have died during gathers conducted over a signficant distance, say 10 to 15 miles. One of these was in fall weather, so extreme tempratures and environmental conditions could not be the biggest factor. Neither one of these dogs were very old, the oldest being around 7 years old as I recall. Even if any of my dogs were tracking dogs - they aren't except figuring out where my wife hides the dog treats - I wouldn't risk them in high heat, rough terrain or longer distance movements.      

And while your dogs and your horses may get along together, not necessarily all the dogs and all the horses in a larger group would work well together on the trail or doing a grid search. Just like you likely screen your search and rescue people so they are fit and healthy enough to conduct a search, and even multi-day searches, you would likely have to do rehearsals with the dogs and horses in a controlled area and also in a environment like you would get called to conducted a SAR mission to evaluate just how well the concept works for your SAR Team. The last thing you want to do it for your search and rescue mission to be turned into a dog evacuation mission.

Probably not the answer you were looking for, but if you are still going to try, maybe doing some short exercises with combined horse and dog teams, then incrementally increasing the duration and distance will see if this is viable for your SAR team.  Good luck.    

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas 2015

Merry Christmas to All! We celebrated this year again on our 4th annual Christmas Ride, through some rural neighborhoods passing out Christmas cheer and treats. This year we posted notices so people would be looking for us.  We came across a wheel chair bound gentleman who told us he had been waiting for an hour for our procession to come by and he feared he had missed us.  He said we made his day, but actually he made ours.

Besides the normal truck and hay trailer carrying our non-riders, we also enlisted a tractor towing a buggy to serve as Santa's sleigh,...however the Red Suited Jolly Man wanted to ride in the bucket most of the time.  Santa was a big hit and not just with the kids. I think people took more photos of Santa did they did our horses.

To see the look on people's faces when you say Merry Christmas or to see the big ear to ear grins of kids getting to sit a horse for the first time makes it all worth it.

After the ride we sat around eating Chili and peach filled empanadas, enjoying the companionship and listening to each others plans concerning their horses for the coming year.

Thanks to Lewis and Nicki, Leonard and Luanne, Arden, Dave and Lisa, Lisa and Ben, Steve and Monica, Farel, Willie and Linda, Janice, Jessica and Tony (Santa), and all the kids who rode with us and served as Santa's helpers.

And a special thanks to my wife Susan who not only drive the truck and hay trailer but made the Chili. 

Merry Christmas and God Bless to you all.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Charitable Giving With Animals

I was reminded by a Preacher the other night to be sure to be thankful for my blessings. An insurmountable tasks it would seem as I have many blessings......a now healthy, cancer surviving wife and beautiful, musically talented daughter; horses who teach me lessons and provide companionship each and everyday; and, four functioning limbs unlike many of the veterans coming home from fighting Islamic extremism overseas,.....and the list goes on. One of the ways we can grateful in a tangible way is to donate to those much less well off than ourselves. Kinda like the biblical quote: "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more" - Luke 12:48 ....or the contemporary and much used version "to whom much is given, much will be expected".

Some of us may be conflicted giving to charity as the needs are great, and often we may think how just much good are we doing buying meals or Christmas presents for the poor, which brings up the quote: "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." - Maimonides, Spanish Philosopher (b. 1135 - d.1204).   

One of the charities I support is the Children's Hunger Fund (CHF). A couple of years ago, I saw where CHF made donations to buy livestock for needy families. Having spent some time in Africa and the Middle East, I know how reliant some families and communities are on livestock to provide milk, fertilizer, meat and eggs, and for barter as well. 

Also, the value of an education for children raising livestock, teaching them responsibility as well as respect and empathy for animals, cannot be measured, nor replicated by just giving gifts. And while some of my most liberal friends will disagree, the value of owning property to bring people out of poverty, cannot be over estimated. "Next to the right of liberty, the right of property is the most important individual right guaranted by the Constitution and the one which, united with that (right) of personal liberty, has contributed more to the growth of civilization than any other institution established by the human race" - William Howard Taft (b. 1857- d.1930), 27th President of the United States (1909-1913), and 10th Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1921-1930.  

So I wanted to make people aware of a few organizations that provide, among other things, livestock to poor people across the globe. I do not necessary endorse any of the organization, with the exception of the Children's Hunger Fund, as I do not know a great detail about them. I have read some contrary commentary on all of these organizations who provide animals to the poor, but to my opinion, these counter opinions are mostly from vegetarian, extreme animal rights oriented organizations, and in some respects also have an anti-religious bent, who mostly think the land should not be used for anything but taking pictures - God forbid free grazers.

Heifer International

Heifer International's mission is to work with communities to end world hunger and poverty and to care for the Earth. Dan West was a farmer from the American Midwest and member of the Church of the Brethren who went to the front lines of the Spanish Civil War as an aid worker. His mission was to provide relief, but he soon discovered the meager single cup of milk rationed to the weary refugees once a day was not enough. And then he had a thought: What if they had not a cup, but a cow?

That "teach a man to fish" philosophy is what drove West to found Heifer International. And now, nearly 70 years later, that philosophy still inspires our work to end world hunger and poverty throughout the world once and for all.

We empower families to turn hunger and poverty into hope and prosperity – but our approach is more than just giving them a handout. Heifer links communities and helps bring sustainable agriculture and commerce to areas with a long history of poverty. Our animals provide partners with both food and reliable income, as agricultural products such as milk, eggs and honey can be traded or sold at market.

When many families gain this new sustainable income, it brings new opportunities for building schools, creating agricultural cooperatives, forming community savings and funding small businesses.

Goats $120, Heifers $500, Sheep $120, and other animals

Children's Hunger Fund

The CHF mission is to deliver hope to suffering children by equipping local churches for gospel-centered mercy ministry. Children’s Hunger Fund was established in 1991 by president and founder Dave Phillips. Since then, CHF has delivered food and, ultimately, hope to children and families in need in the U.S. and around the world—maintaining 99 percent efficiency for over 20 years.
$65 piglet, $225 mature pig; chickens 2 for $14

Samaritan's Purse

Franklin Graham's, son of evangelist Billy Graham, is president of Samaritan's Purse. Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ. The organization serves the church worldwide to promote the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dairy Goat $70; Sheep $80; Donkey $350

Oxfam America

Oxfam America, a nonprofit organization committed to creating lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and injustice. Oxfam America is a member of the international confederation Oxfam, 17 organizations working together in over 90 countries. The gift items in this catalog are based on actual projects funded by Oxfam worldwide. By purchasing our charitable gifts, you are making a difference. Give gifts that do good.

Pair of Goats $100; 6 goats $275; one dairy cow $110.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Are Supplements for Horses Worth It?

EMays wrote to me to ask about equine supplements. I see alot of my friends using supplements on their horses. Based on my history using human health supplements for myself, I think that some are probably good for horses and necessary to make up (nutritional) deficiencies, while others may be a waste of time. What is your opinion on generally good supplements for horses? Thank you for your time."

I pretty much believe that less if better when it comes to supplements in general, and even non-forage feed for that matter. But I also believe some horses, like humans, can have nutritional deficiencies and chronic conditions that may likely be helped with equine supplements. I am also inclined to think that a supplement that works for one horse does not necessarily work for another horse as there are way too many variables such as age, physical condition, previous injuries, feeding program, and what the horse is used for. Another variable is just how much you are willing to spend.

Years ago my horseshoer introduced me to a Doctorate student who was riding with my shoer to keep his own horseshoeing skills current. This Doctorate student, who was heading for an advanced degree in Ruminant Management and Equine Nutrition or some closely related field, also grew up working on ranches and feed lots in the mid-West, was a wealth of information on equine nutrition. Since I had a 20+ year old horse who had broke a coffin bone wing which my shoer was bringing back to soundness with a bar shoe, I asked about hoof supplements thinking it may be a good idea to get this horse on a supplement that would help heal his broken foot.

The Doctorate student told me that he believed hoof supplements were likely effective especially if they had key ingredients like biotin, L-Methionine and L-Tyrosine and some others. He also told me that the jury is out on joint supplements. However, he said it was likely that Chondroitin and Hyaluronic Acid were not effective in horses, but Glucosamine could be. My experience with human joint supplements tell me the same thing, that Glucosamine and Vitamin C are the main effective ingredients in joint supplements. This Doctorate student also said that it was hard to get the industry to fund objective studies since they could be funding a study that would conclude that supplements improving horses were inconclusive or worst yet, not effective. 

By the way - I ended up putting that old horse with the coffin bone break on hoof supplements. Nine months later it came time to quit the barshoes, get an x-ray and see what the hoof looked like. My Vet told me not to get my hopes up, but when I went to his office to get the results he said words to the effect that "I'll be damned that old horse's hoof has healed - no reason you can't start using him now."

I also put another horse on hoof supplements and months later my horseshoer remarked that I should keep doing what I'm doing because that horse's feet were looking good from his perspective. Keep in mind that no hoof supplements are more important that consistent, competent trimming and shoeing......but I think it could help and that leads me to the saying that "proof is in the pudding".

I also have had a horse on joint supplements for the past year. I chose a version high in Glucosamine and Vitamin C and without Chondroitin and Hyaluronic Acid. I think it is helping but it is hard to tell. For sure, he is making more athletic turns such as doubling on the fence, but it could also be because we do more of that. But, I'm going to keep him on it. I think I owe him the benefit of any doubt. If that particular joint supplement started costing an exorbitant amount of money, then I could rethink that, but right now about $35-40 a month is worth it me on the chance it is providing that horse with nutrients good for his joints, and in particular, his cartilage and soft connective tissue.

The bottom line for me is that if any of my horses had a particular condition that may be helped with supplements, then I would try it for awhile. Awhile is not weeks, but months,....if not a year or more. And even then it may be hard to tell if your horse is being helped. Out of six horse's, I have one on daily hoof and joint supplements. Two other horses receive a weekly pro-biotic paste because I think they can benefit from it.

I use Smart Pak supplements. They package my daily supplements in one handy string of multiple containers - see picture upper left. Smart Pak has some good resources available on their web site to include a blog with categories like 'Asking the Vet', to 'Success Stories' from owners using supplements with their horrses and how they fared.

Smart Pak is a very customer oriented and responsive company.  Advisors are available to discuss supplements over the phone and help you choose what may be best for your horse.  The UPS truck brings my supplements every 28 days and I even get an e-mail to my phone when they are delivered so I can walk out to my main gate to retrieve the package.   I have no financial arrangement with Smart Pak other than they have donated to charity based horse event I have ran.  

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Unbranded - the Movie You Need to See

If you have been in prison, in Mongolia for instance, for the last several years you may not know about Unbranded. Unbranded is a documentary style movie detailing the adventures of four young Texas cowboys. Ben Masters, Jonny Fitzsimons, Thomas Glover, and Ben Thamer who adopted and trained Bureau of Land Management Mustangs to embark on a five month, 3,000 mile pack trip from the Mexico border North through Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana to reach the Canadian border.

The bottom line here is that you gotta go see this movie...if you are lucky enough for it to be  in a movie house close to you.  If not, you can order the DVD version and watch it at home. It will be worth it. Last night, my wife and I drove 30 miles to town to watch Unbranded on the big screen. It was a one night deal and tickets had to be pre-sold to meet a minimum number which was no problem as the theatre was close to sold out. This is a phenomenal movie.  

Ben Masters, the instigator of this project acknowledged doing this project, in part, to bring attention to the plight of 50,000 unwanted wild horses and burros living in government-leased pens and pastures and in need of adoption. In the movie it is clear that Mustangs and Burros on public lands is a sensitive issue with people on both ends of the argument and fortunately many people in between. While there are many reasons for the plight of these wild horses and burros, including drought, wildlands fires, lack of forage, and fastly growing wild herds, the movie does not come out clearly on one side or the other, except that rapidly growing and over populated holding pens are not the ideal solution for these animals.

It is no accident that Masters chose Mustangs as his riding and packing stock. His experience from previous pack trips exposed him to the durability and reliability of Mustangs. Big boned, solid footed and with the ability to endure harsh conditions, it just likely wouldn't have been possible to complete the trip on today's highly bred performance horses.

Just from the scenery alone, this movie is worth the time. But you'll see the boys and their horses traverse some of the toughest terrain in North America; endure freezing rain and hail; chase loose horses; and likely the hardest tasks, pick cactus - Cholla in particular - out of horses. Cholla cactus is often called Jumping Cactus as it seemingly jumps out at you. In fact, of the four Cowboys explains this in the movie in a scene where one of the horses had Cholla patches stuck all over him.....and I mean ALL over him.   

This pack train just didn't start out on the Mexican border and complete the trip all by their lonesomes. They had a cameraman and support along the way, sometimes to haul off horses that received significant enough injuries where they couldn't continue, which fortunately were only two - one bowed tendon and one torn muscle.

And you'll meet Val, an old cowboy who helped out in Arizona and then again in Wyoming, and who sings a song about the trip.  Only one horse died along the way and that was from seemingly natural causes. Ben Masters said it was very sad to lose a horse, at least he died in the wild where he belonged as opposed to a holding pen.

Somewhere along the trail they picked up a burro, named Donquita. She almost stole the show. Apparently she did not pack any gear, but was along to be a camp guard in predator country.

After the completion of the ride, Ben Masters donated a horse named Luke to the Mustang Heritage Foundation, where he was auctioned for $25,000 dollars to support mustang adoptions. This will be the horse you see Ben fly fishing off of. The Mustang Heritage Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) public, charitable, nonprofit organization dedicated to facilitating successful adoptions for America’s excess mustangs and burros and is the organization that hosts the Extreme Mustang Makeover competitions and Trainer Incentive Program.

If you are like me,...someone who does not like going to the movies, you should make an exception for this if there is a a screening near you. Otherwise, you'll want to buy the DVD and watch it at home. The below video is an older trailer for the project and worth watching to wet your appetite for the feature movie.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Using Honey to Treat Horse Wounds?

This article was originally posted on Yahoo and titled - "The Horse Called Miracle Who Cheated Death With The Help Of Honey". Isn’t it funny how a horse likes honey? A horse who was on the verge of being put down has made a miraculous recovery thanks to a few dollops of the sweet stuff.

The animal, appropriately called Miracle, collided with a fence and suffered a 12-inch gash in her leg. “We don’t know what Miracle did but it was a horrible injury,” said Sue Gessey, 40, who runs the Animal Healing Trust in Withal, Worcestershire. “I arrived at the centre in the morning and she was in the field with her leg gaping and there was blood everywhere. “She must have caught her leg on a fence in a freak accident. “When I looked closer I saw a huge piece of skin flapping around with blood pouring out. It was horrible.”

Sue had taken Miracle in as a rescue horse. She was saved from the knacker’s yard four years ago, only to come close to death again with the horrific injury.

One vet recommended Miracle be put to sleep after suffering the gash in her leg, but Sue wouldn’t contemplate that course of action, and found another vet who suggested putting honey on the wound twice a day.

Comment from Functional Horsemanship: I've seen some pretty horrific injuries on horses. I've always felt that my Vets never sugar coated recovery or anything but giving me good advice. But I have never have a Vet tell me a horse should be put down from a soft tissue injury without trying to treat it. I realize Miracle was a rescue horse, but they all deserve a fair effort on our parts.

Honey from the charity’s own beehives was used on Miracle’s leg. Unbelievably, after six days Miracle was able to put weight on the leg, and after five weeks had made a full recovery. “For the next three days the vet was calling me telling me I needed to put Miracle down, but I couldn’t believe it.” Sue found the honey suggestion while researching online, before a different vet also mentioned the unusual treatment. “He operated on her in the field for £400 and then said I needed to apply honey to the wound every day, which would work as a natural antiseptic,” she said.

“That was no problem for me, as we have our own beehive for exactly that. I believe that’s why she made such an amazing recovery, it was like silk binding her leg back together.”

Miracle got her name from her first brush with death, when she was saved from slaughter four years ago with just hours to spare. “After her latest scare she’s certainly living up to her name,” said Sue.

Comment from Functional Horsemanship: I've never heard of using honey on wounds before. I would be hesitant to use honey because of attracting insects, but  I did some research on using honey on wounds and it appears to be a legitimate remedy. According to DermNetNZ honey has antimicrobial properties because the lack of water inhibits the growth of microorganisms and when honey is diluted by wound fluids, hydrogen peroxide is produced in the reaction. This may be why the hydrogen peroxide based Vetericyn works so well on soft tissue wounds. DermNetNZ went on to explain honey appears to stimulate lymphocytic and phagocytic activity which are key body immune responses in the battle against infection. I'll think I will still be using Vetericyn on wounds that my horses get, but I won't be forgetting about the use of honey. Heck, I'll likely be needing it on myself as clumsily as I am with knives and such.

If you are interested in learning more, then click on the DermNetNZ link which will take you to their site and further explains what type of honey to use and how to use honey on the wound.